Practice makes perfect?

My latest tweet in less than 140 key strokes: “Practice makes perfect. Give up this goal. What makes perfect is an attitude about being satisfied with the outcome. Pianists please note.”

It’s too stressful to expect a perfect performance. I remind people who study with me that if they really need to know how well they did in their lesson or performance, to count up every note in their piece. Then subtract the number of wrong notes they played. Based on those percentages, it’s probably fair to say that you still got a 99%! It’s all about your own individual perception and most tend to focus on a few of those sour notes.

I don’t mean to say that one shouldn’t strive to do their best, especially when practicing. But, when it comes to being in a perfect situation, so many things can or could go wrong. Just read an earlier blog post below!

All seven of us in my family played the piano. It was the one thing that we all did. It brought us together, no matter where we happened to be living, every summer for the piano camp that Mom and Dad founded. The piano became the family nucleus. So much so, that on the first day of kindergarten, my brother, the youngest of five, came home crying. We all asked him what was going on (thinking he was probably suffering from a little separation anxiety) when instead, he sobbed: “Joey! Joey! Joey, doesn’t have, doesn’t have a…a…a…pi-a-no!” He just assumed that owning one and playing it was as normal as brushing your teeth every day.

I’m proud to say that the next generation, my two boys, are also playing the piano despite being in their teens as this is precisely the time when most young pianists give up (only to regret it many years later). My eldest finds the piano relaxing! I keep reminding him to remember this for when he goes off to college and exams and homework overwhelm him. This is one form of natural medication that is healthy! My youngest finds learning new repertoire on the piano incredibly challenging but he can make the piano sing so beautifully. Life, homework and just about everything comes easily to him. It’s why, as a parent, I think it’s important to keep him on the piano so that he recognizes that some struggles are also healthy to have.

In a few days I’ll blog a post on performance anxiety and later on about How to Practice efficiently and effectively. This post, however, is all about being open to an attitude that gives you all the comfort and joy to love every moment of what you’re doing. Sometimes, it takes reflecting back to our innocent days of youth to recognize that kind of freedom from conditioning. I’d love to see individuals experience the kind of excitement you can witness in this short video of my first born, playing in a concert with an audience of over 125, at the age of 26 months. Please note the excitement in his body language, the sharing of his inner exhilaration as well, the change in his physical demeanor (he sways) when the music switches to a slower section [an aside: he mouths to the audience “quiet part”] and the    to-die-for moment when the page gets turned, only to return, once again, to the agitated swirlings of the beginning of the piece as it is aptly called “Spanish Tornado.” (by Noona)

That raw ability to offer oneself to the audience without any fear, without holding back  and with complete commitment and focused concentration is what creates that perfect outcome for the audience, and, therefore, the player as well. This kind of practice does make perfect.

About Polly van der Linde

Pianist, teacher, director of International Piano Camps in VT, for adults and children of all levels of ability
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8 Responses to Practice makes perfect?

  1. Rea says:

    Polly, the part you wrote about using the piano to relax during college really hit a note with me (pun intended). I bought a piano during my 2nd year of law school and it was a lifesaver. When I became a litigator, very stressful type of law to practice, I would come home and practice for about an hour just to unwind. Margaret is very similar to me, which is why I won’t let her quit, b/c I know (and I tell her) that she will be really thankful when she is older that she will be able to come home and make the world go away with music, no matter how stressful her day has been. Love your blog.

    • pianessa says:

      Thanks, Rea. This is all new to me but I’m enjoying it. There’s an article in the April 2013 issue of Parenting Magazine by a senior editor where she also says thanks to Mom and Dad about keeping her at the piano. For all the pianists who come to Sonatas and studied in their youth, that is the single most repeated comment. Glad piano is your friend.

  2. Terry says:

    I also used playing the piano when I was in college as an outlet for some of the stresses of school and I believe I learned a lot about playing under those conditions that has helped be cope with other things later in life. Now, dunno what I would do without it…. maybe invent one! LOL

  3. Moe says he loves his piano teacher. He looks forward to your blog on how to practice. Moe is an accomplished drummer but piano is a challenge for him. He says the added fact of pitch and fingering is asking a lot. He plays pretty regularly upstairs on the pavilion here in statia. The iguanas readily respond!

  4. Kathy Gray says:

    Such great advice, Polly. As one who has been guilty of beating up on myself for mistakes, or comparing myself to others, this state of mind is very important for me.

  5. trailsofivy says:

    So, so darn adorable…he sure does have all the right moves with his little fingers…and you ain’t so bad either, Polly!!

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